Big sound from a small town: Gustavus man releases hard-rocking album

When it comes to “Sonus,” expect the unexpected.

The new album from Sean Patrick— available on streaming services as of Wednesday — isn’t going to jibe with what many would expect from a singer-songwriter living in Gustavus, a small Southeast Alaska city of about 655 near Glacier Bay National Park.

“It’s a big sound coming out of a small town, ” Patrick said.

With the crack of a drum and a muscular guitar riff worthy of stoner rock greats Kyuss, album-opener “Take It Slow” seems to announce exactly the sort of throwback rock album listeners can expect.

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And, in some ways, it is exactly that old-school, hard-rock album. Justin Smith of Rusty Recordings, who produced, recorded, mixed and played on the album, went to lengths to use as much analog equipment as possible in the making of the album, and that helps give it an album-out-of-time sound.

“Everything you hear on the record is analog. There’s no synthesizers or sampled instruments or drum samples or anything like that,” Smith said. “Everything you hear is amps, real tube amps, turned up loud.”

Tube amplifiers are revered in many audiophile circles for their tone. Once upon a time, they were the only means for amplifying the sound of an electric guitar, but today solid-state, hybrid and digital amplifiers are alternatives with respective niches, defenders and detractors. However, odds are overwhelmingly good that your favorite classic rock guitar solo was played through a tube amp.

“It’s all just real guitars, real tube amps, real tube microphones, mixed through a lot of tube gear,” Smith said.

He said that getting Patrick’s vocals high up in the mix was also a priority.

“Sean’s got a voice for rock like nobody I’ve ever met.” Smith said.

The result is rock music that sounds invitingly warm and unapologetically like rock music.

However, not every track on “Sonus” is a hard-charging stomper.

The album, which will be available as a physical release on CD, is the culmination of decades spent making music, and it shows different facets of Patrick’s songwriting.

“I wanted to give some variety,” Patrick said. “Something for grandpa to listen to, and something for the younger listener, too.”

Patrick, 40, said he grew up in Port Alexander, Gustavus and “all around Southeast” listening to cassette tapes and loving MTV and bands like Nirvana. He said he began playing guitar at age 12 and was almost immediately interested in figuring out how to write his own songs.

“I wanted to write my own music from the beginning basically,” Patrick sad. “I’ve always wanted to play original music and steered away from being a cover artist. I’ve got probably 30 to 40 songs, and this album features nine that were sort of randomly pulled from the group, but a lot of the material on this album is a little more hard-core, so to speak, but I play the range of music I like.”

“When Winter Comes,” which is among Smith’s favorite songs on the album, is a slower, more pensive track that enlists the talents of French cellist Gregoire Korniluk and is an example of that range.

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The album also features bassist Jordi Rebas from Voices of Galadh in Spain, and singer Mike Patterson in Portland, Ore., but was predominantly made by Alaskans in Alaska, including Todd Vierra and Alexei Painter of Juneau.

Patrick spoke highly of the experience and Smith’s production. He also praised the quality of the musicians who helped make the album possible, and said he is pleased with how “Sonus” turned out.

“It’s a lifelong goal accomplishment to put out this particular record,” Patrick said. “I’ve been a part of some amateur recording session things, but this is a highlight of my musical aspirations, and I look forward to the next one.”

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com . Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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